The ManicaPost

Tendai Gukutikwa, Post Correspondent

AS parents gear up for the opening of schools next Tuesday, last-minute shoppers had to contend with the high prices of school uniforms and stationery throughout the province.

A snap survey conducted by The Manica Post in Mutare, Rusape and Chipinge yesterday revealed that the parents were disturbed by the price hikes, especially on Early Child Development (ECD), Grade One and Form One requirements.

Most parents are rushing to beat the orientation for mostly Form Ones scheduled for today.

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ECD and Form One pupils are usually enrolled at new schools, a situation that has seen most schools capitalising on by imposing stringent demands which have seen parents paying through the nose.

Shoppers crowded the Central Business District until late as they sought to compare prices and bargain for the mandatory school items.

Parents and guardians who spoke to The Manica Post said the back to school shopping spree was hijacked by unscrupulous retailers capitalising on their desperation to make super profits.

Some retailers were openly demanding to be paid in US dollars.

Most retailers had a three-tier pricing regime for electronic money, cash and US dollars, much to the chagrin of parents and guardians who also had to contend with astronomical school fees hike.

Some boarding schools have more than doubled their fees.

Day schools have also followed suit citing the high cost of consumables and running efficient education systems.

Mrs Rose Tigere, whose child has been enrolled in Form One at a boarding school in the province, said she had to fork out about $10 000 to meet all the school needs.

“The high fees and high cost of uniforms and stationery have dampened our spirits. I have a child in Form One at a local school, whose school uniforms, stationery and transport to take her to and from over the term, have chewed $10 000. It is like I am paying fees for someone who is already at the university,” she said.

Parents with children starting ECD at former Group A schools also complained about the high prices on new curriculum equipment that they have been advised to buy for their children.

Mrs Joice Matyira had this to say: “We bought guitars and laptops among other very expensive stuff for our children. We are grateful to the new curriculum yes, but the equipment is just too expensive for us.

Most shops that sell such stuff are demanding to be paid in US dollars, which we do not have and are forced to look for first.”

Another parent, Mr Chipo Murefu of Chikanga, said: “Prices are changing every hour as retailers stock up uniforms and other school-related materials.

“This leaves us with no choice but to buy the required items at high prices.

This is unfair. My salary is less than $1 000 and I have more than two children going to school.”

Parents with ECD, Grade 1 and 7 children at Chancellor Junior School thronged the school yesterday for this year’s orientation.

As the new learners were welcomed to the school, parents were urged to support them throughout their academic journey.

The school head, Mr Masimba Chihowa, said parents should work together with their children’s teachers.

“We should work together for the betterment of our children because the school cannot go on without your assistance as parents.

The support should not end here, you should keep on replenishing and maintaining their education,” said Mr Chihowa.